To the Editor:
Your recent research summary stating that character education programs, for the most part, produce few benefits in student behavior and academics is very misleading (“Study Finds Few Benefits for Character Education,” Report Roundup, Oct. 27, 2010). The data any think tank collects on such programs are limited and, as your report itself points out, some advocates say the study “did not follow the students long enough.” Improvements in student behavior in the areas of self-respect, bullying, conflict resolution, and so on are not necessarily easy to measure.
And it is also not easy to collect precise data for these behavior issues. Topics covered in character education classes teach, as much as anything, to the intrinsic values of the young adolescent—values that we hope our students will reflect on and that will make them better citizens. With consistent interventions, it may take months or years before a bully realizes the pain he or she inflicts and can begin to change his or her behavior.
On the other side of the data coin, we could once print out data reports with a program called “Success in Stages” from Channing Bete, for example, but unfortunately, the program is no longer available, as I understand it. In our experience, it clearly showed that our 6th graders observed a decrease in bullying in our hallways as they proceeded through the three-stage program during the school year.
In October, as a result of witnessing other state initiatives, our school hosted an extended time for the bullying section of our character education program. We now hear kids and parents actually talking about bullying as they walk our hallways and discussing strategies during parent-teacher conferences for stopping bullying—that tells me our message is getting out and is being discussed by our community at large. In our book, that reports out just as well as any data sheet.
Ocean Bay Middle School
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
A version of this article appeared in the December 01, 2010 edition of Education Week as Limited Data Collection Makes Findings ‘Misleading’